The Process of Getting a Dona Birth Doula Certification: Getting Started

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I've noticed in speaking with friends and people on various forums there are a lot of questions associated with what you need to do to become a DONA certified birth doula. I thought it might be nice to write a series that explains the requirements and talks about how long they take and how difficult they are from my personal experience. Keep in mind that at the time of writing this I am still earning my certification, and though I've completed most of the tasks necessary, so will be missing for now. I'll update as I complete them.

Getting started:
Pretty much the best way to get started is to check out the Dona International website page for birth doula certification. This page gives you a nice list of what things you need to do and a suggested order in which to complete them. You can also watch some documentaries that focus on the work of a doula, such as Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion or The Essential Ingredient: Doula. These will not only show you start-to-finish the job of a doula in labor, but also give you an idea of what a prenatal and postpartum visit would look like. It would be a good idea at this point to talk to your partner about the time requirements of being a doula. You will be on call ideally for a 10 day window around your clients' due date, and she may even go into labor outside of that. You will obviously need to think about childcare (if you have children) and how easily you will be able to leave work (if you work outside of the home). Also, is this a good idea for you financially? Dona has some scholarships available, but you will also need to buy your certification packet, pay the processing fee for that packet, supplies for your work, materials for marketing, and possibly the books you'll be using to study. I don't mean to discourage you because becoming a doula is still a much cheaper career option than most, but you should always think about the cost of your commitment.

First steps:
Now that you've decided this is something you want to do, you should find a workshop in your area! Your workshop will be a 16 hour course, taught over the span of two 8 hour days. It will generally cost around $400, but may be less if taken with a friend or if you register by a certain date. It will be attended by other prospective doulas in your area, which can provide a great base for support and friendship, and it will be taught by a DONA certified Birth Doula trainer. She should be able to answer any questions you have about pursuing certification, getting clients, dealing with emotional labors, contracts, insurance, collecting supplies, and helping your career fit into your family schedule. Your instructor will be a wellspring of information and you should ask her everything you need to know!

Dona has a tool on their website for looking up workshops in your area. Use it to check out where and when the nearest workshop is, and e-mail the course instructor for more information. If the upcoming class in your area is a few months away, don't be discouraged, there are a lot of things you still need to do that you can complete before taking this class. Another option is to look up any workshops in nearby communities, or in an area that you visit often. The date of a workshop in my area was eight months from when I searched for one, and my instructor mentioned she had a class coming up sooner in Omaha. I ended up going on a mini vacation to visit my family who lives there, and attended my workshop that same weekend! Be creative with your time and find what works for you.

After attending your workshop, you will have a better understanding of the certification process and an ignited interest in learning everything possible about birth. Your next step is to purchase your Certification Packet from Dona for $45. You may choose to purchase a DONA membership at this point, but you are not required to. Your certification packet will be emailed to you, and you can print it off all at once, or just as necessary. It includes explanations of the certification process, the DONA required reading list, paperwork for births, and much more. You could complete the reading list before purchasing your packet if you wished, but I find this way works better because you can read your books as you're completing other required tasks.

Summary of Getting Started

  • You need to research the role of a doula, and decide if this is something you want to do.
  • Talk with your family and work about the time required and what arrangements need to be made.
  • Find and attend a DONA Birth Doula Workshop
  • Purchase a certification packet.
Necessary Costs So Far
  • Dona Workshop-$400 (estimate)
  • Certification Packet-$45
  • Total-$445
Part two will be available soon!


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